CRITICIAM OF SYADVADA: The Buddhists and the Vedantins  have criticized Svldvada as a self contradictory doctrine. 

Taking the word ‘ syat ’ in its popular sense of probability, they have found it easy to condemn this theory. Contradictory attributes like existence and non-existence cannot belong to the same thing in the same sense. Like light and darkness they cannot remain together. Dharmaklrti  says : These shameless and naked Jainas make contradictory statements like a mad man.  Shantaraksita says that Syadvada which combines the real and the unreal, the existent and the non-existent, the one and the many, the identity and the difference, the universal and the particular, is like a mad man’s cry. Similarly, Shankaracharya also says that Syadvada appears like the words of a lunatic. You cannot blow hot and cold in the same breath. Unity and plurality, permanence and momentariness, reality and unreality cannot remain at the same time and in the same thing, like light and darkness. Ramanuja also says that contradictory attributes such as existence and non-existence, like light and darkness, can never be combined. But these criticisms are off the mark. Jainism never says that contradictory attributes belong to the same thing at the same time and in the same sense. Anekantavada asserts that the real has infinite attributes because it is an identity-and-difference and that though, from the stand-point of substance, it is a unity, permanent and real, yet from the stand-point of modes, it is a plurality, changing and unreal. A thing is regarded as real from the view-point of its own matter, form, space and time; and it is regarded as unreal, not from the same standpoint, but from the view-point of other’s matter, form, space and time. There is no room for contradiction here.  The very nature of reality is infinitely complex and it, being an identity-and-difference, admits of contradictory attributes from different points of view which are all partial and relative. Existence, non-existence, both existence and non-existence successively, and indescribability are attributed to a thing from different view-points. Not understanding this and fearing imaginary contradictions and mistaking partial and relative views as absolute, fools fall from the right position.

                           The Vedantin levels another charge against Syadvada. He says that no theory can be sustained by mere probability. If everything is probable, then Syadvada, by its own assertion, becomes only probable. The Jainas might retort that Syadvada does not mean the theory of probability, that it is not self-condemned scepticism, but it means the theory of relativity of knowledge. All judgments are relative and conditional and all truth is partial. But even now, the objection of Shankaracharya stands with full force. Relativity itself cannot be sustained without the Absolute. If all truth is partial, then Syadvada itself is only partially true and therefore partially false. Relativity itself is related to the Absolute and presupposes its existence. The fact that all our judgments are relative requires us to presuppose an Absolute in which all the relatives fall and through which they are manifested. When we examine the seven steps in the Syadvada, we find that the last three are superfluous and redundant. They are merely the combination of the fourth with the first, second and third respectively. If we take to combinations, we may have as many steps as we like. The retort of Kumarila that thus instead of seven steps you may have hundred steps  seems to be quite right to us. Hence only the first four steps are real. These are not the inventions of the Jainas. They are borrowed from the famous ‘Chatuskotis’ or the four categories of thought accepted by Buddhism and Vedanta. It, is significant to note in this connection that the doctrine of Syadvada in its fully developed form of seven steps is found perhaps for the first time in Kundakunda’s Panchästikäya and Pravachanasära. Two passages have been traced in the Jaina canon which contain a reference to the Syadvada. They are in the Bhagavatisutra and are quoted by Mallavadi in his Naya-chakra. One reference runs thus— ‘Relatively, the soul is knowledge; relatively, the soul is ignorance’ ;  and the other— ‘Relatively, the soul exists; relatively, the soul does not exist; relatively, the soul is indescribable’. Here at the most only three steps are mentioned. In the Buddhist ‘Digha-nikaya’ and ‘Majjhima-Nikaya’ we find references to the four categories of thought— ‘is’, ‘is not’ , ‘both is and is not’, and ‘neither is nor is not’ . In our opinion, therefore, Syadvada is definitely influenced by the Anirvachaniyata-vada of Shunyavada Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta.

                            Jainism rightly points out that all our knowledge is necessarily relative, conditional and partial. All human knowledge is empirical and therefore relative. The Buddhist doctrine of Dependent Origination (pratityasamutpada) also tells us that all things have dependent and conditional origination and are therefore relative. Shunyavada, Vijnana-vada and Advaita Vedanta have always maintained the necessarily relative character of our empirical knowledge. But while they have made a distinction between the empirical and the absolute, the phenomenal and the noumenal, the conditional and the unconditional, the Samvrti and the Paramartha or the Paratantra and the Parinispanna or the Vyavahara and the Paramartha, Jainism has bluntly refused to make any such distinction. It refuses to rise higher than the relative. It has a bias against absolutism and in favour of common sense realistic pluralism. Being wedded to common sense realism and having pinned its faith to seeming pluralism, Jainism has conveniently forgotten the implications of its own logic and has refused to rise above the relative.

                             Syadvada gives us only seven scattered forms of judgments and makes no attempt to synthesize them. These seven forms of judgment are

like scattered pearls or beads or flowers. They cannot be woven into a philosophical garland in the absence of the Absolute which alone can act as the thread. The relatives are bound together in the Absolute. It is the Absolute which gives life, meaning and significance to the relatives. If you throw away the Absolute, you cannot have even the relatives. If you reject the noumenal, you cannot retain even the phenomenal. Syadvada itself becomes relative and partial. The Jainas do not give us a real identity-m-difference. What they give is merely identity plus difference. But reality is not a mathematical sum total of partial view-points. The Absolute is not all the relatives put together. The Jainas forget that organic synthesis and not arithmetical addition is the secret of reality. They forget their prejudice against absolutism when they absolutely assert that their teaching alone represents the whole truth, while all other systems give partial truths. Some schools teach Being, Permanence, Identity and Universality, while others teach Non-being, Momentariness, Plurality and Particularly. The Jainas have combined both, thinking that a mere combination of partial truths will give them the whole truth. But this is not the way of reaching truth. The Jainas  make a distinction between sakaladesha and vikaladesha. The scattered partial truths are called vikaladesha. But when they are put together they become the whole truth which is called sakaladesha. Like the Shunyavadins and the Vedantins, the Jainas also have criticized one view by advancing the arguments of its opposite view and the latter by means of the arguments given by the former. Thus they criticize permanence through the arguments in favour of momentariness and the latter through the arguments supporting the former. They criticize satkaryavada through asatkaryavada and vice versa. And so on. But while the Shunyavadins and the Vedantins synthesize the two partial views into a higher reality, the Jainas simply put them together and think they have reached the whole truth thus impartially. All other views are partial and defective; but if they are put down together, they become the Jaina view and Lo! by the magic lamp of Aladin all their defects vanish overnight and they represent the whole truth! Thus Yashovijaya says that the Jaina view is evidently the best because it has woven together all the nayas in it.  But the difficulty is that the nayas have not been woven together; they have been simply put together. The Absolute is the only thread which can weave them together and it has been wantonly thrown away by Jainism. He further says that Anekantavada is impartial and treats all the nayas equally like one’s own children. This impartiality is rather dangerous as it goes against the qualitative differences in the nayas. Hemachandra also says that other systems are relative and partial and fight against one another, while Jainism alone is impartial because it puts all the nayas together. It is forgotten that a mere pooling together of the nayas by no means removes their contradictions. For this a proper synthesis is required which will unify all the nayas, preserve their merits and remove their defects. In the absence of the Absolute, this synthesis is an impossibility for Jainism. Again, to say that other systems, being relative and partial, are like fire-flies giving only broken light, while Jainism alone, being the complete truth, is like the luminous sun, is to make a half-hearted confession of Absolutism, for by a mere addition of the light of innumerable fire-flies you cannot have the light of the sun. So far as other systems are concerned, they are repeatedly accused by the Jainas of committing the fallacy of mistaking a relative truth to be the absolute truth. They are called Ekantavada. Jainism alone is said to be really relative— Anekantavada, and relativity is proclaimed to be the only truth. Thus, by its own assertion Jainism becomes partially false. And in practice this relativity is often forgotten.